Photo by Akiba
Tis A Gift To Be Simple is a song and dance, which comes from the Shakers and is part of the repertoire of Dances of Universal Peace. I have shared this song and dance with all ages from the very young to Elders and it always evokes Divine Innocence. By Divine Innocence, I mean the kind of purity seen in the photo of the milkweed pod bursting with pure innocence and celebration! Divine Innocence is the birth of the new born soul, which can happen throughout life. As human beings, when we are hurt, it is our innocence which is hurt. Our innocence feels betrayed in some way; whether it be in a relationship with others, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with work, community, the world, and/or the Creator, it makes sense to return to the place which has been hurt for healing. Returning to Divine Innocence through singing and dancing these childlike movements offers refreshment to the weary soul and guidance on how to restore our Divine Innocence. "In the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, "The sage is the one who keeps the child's heart and mind" (Cohen, 1997, p.75). This is also reflected in brain research that music is not just confined to one area of the brain but has centers throughout the brain. When singing and dancing are integrated with a focus on Divine Innocence, the right half of the brain is singing in concert with the left half of the brain as images and emotions dance together with words and purpose.
The following paragraphs go through the psychological and spiritual guidance offered by the words and movements to Tis A Gift to be Simple. Emotional and spiritual health are really one and the same as psyche originally comes from the Greek and means soul, life, and breath and singing and dancing are wonderful ways to invigorate the whole psyche. In the first movement phrase we are simply swinging our arms while holding hands in a circle, which many of us did as children but as adults there is a consciousness of how liberating it is to be connected with others in the joy of moving in rhythm together. It is a gift to kneel or bend our knees and sense the humility and relief of being part of something so much grander than ourselves, Mother Earth. In bringing the palms of our hands together at our hearts, we can feel that we are part of the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
In the second movement phrase, the swaying motion is a soothing motion as when a Mother sways from side-to-side holding her baby and is known to offer balance to the emotions during distress. Opening the hands and raising the arms up and out in a V shape not only gets the blood circulating by bringing oxygen and nutrients to the heart and lungs, but it lifts our spirits and helps align us with the souce of Divine Innocence.
In the third movement phrase, sometimes there is so much joy people spontaneously begin to skip. Whether we are walking or skipping, when we bow forward we are bowing before our Divine Innocence, and this may mean clearing the way to this purity by offering forgiveness, asking for forgiveness or both. This may be the most difficult part of returning to Divine Innocence but it is vital to the next movement and stage. We can only bend back in exaltation to the extent we have bent forward. Freeing our conscience, allows us to be fully open to Divine Innocence infusing our hearts.
In the fourth and final movement phrase, we feel the exhilaration and revelation of feeling one with Divine Innocence. We spin or turn in harmony with the universe.
- ‘Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where we want to be’ - In a circle hold hands and walk in a clockwise direction swinging arms into and out of the center of the circle beginning with the right foot. On the word “down” turn and face the center of the circle and either come to a kneeling position on the floor or if this is not possible, bend the knees and bounce placing the hands in the prayer position at the heart.
- ‘and when we have come down to the place just right, we will be in the valley of love and delight’ - While swaying from side to side in time with the rhythm of the song, on the phrase ‘love and delight’ open the hands and lift the arms in a V.
- ‘When the true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed’ - Resume walking in a circle in a clockwise direction freely swinging the arms, (not holding hands) and on the word “bow” gently bend forward and on the word “bend” gently bend backwards.
- ‘To turn and turn it will be our delight, till by turning and turning we come round right’ – Turn or spin to the right with arms outstretched in a V.
- The whole dance may be repeated with skipping, jogging, walking slowly etc. or with combinations of movements and at different tempos.
The next article discusses how the song and dance Sri Ram Jai Ram from the Hindu tradition, inspires the embodyment of Divine Strength.
Cohen, K., p.75 (1997) The Way of Qigong. New York and Toronto, Canada: Ballentine Book Published by The Random House Publishing Group.